After several years of success in Korea, Seventeen made their Japanese debut with 2018’s excellent Call Call Call. Since then, the group has released one J-pop follow-up, which sacrificed Call’s upbeat funk-rock energy for something more in line with their newly “matured” Korean work. New single Fallin’ Flower (舞い落ちる花びら) largely replicates this mood, albeit with different results.
Broadly speaking, the idol side of the J-pop market tends to favor more elaborate, overwrought melodies. While K-pop thrives on taut, ever-shifting arrangements, many Japanese groups offer a slower build, where melodies upon melodies snowball to create an ornate structure. Fallin’ Flower shares some characteristics with this approach. On first glance its structure is a bit baffling, moving through several distinct segments without ever landing on one defining anchor. Whereas most tracks would repeat their chorus three or four times, Flower only hits its titular hook twice. Instead, most of the song is given over to a gentle build, peppered with moments of surprising restraint.
There’s enough of a melodic through line to make this approach work, but just barely. I like the soft gallop of the instrumental during the opening verse. It gives Flower a sense of direction, which is especially important when the melody is replaced by an angstier rap segment. From here, the tempo slows to a crawl for a pretty – if ultimately unnecessary – moment. A stronger chorus might have made this sense of delayed gratification a little more… well… gratifying, though I do love the cresting refrain that follows the comparatively monotonous “fallin’ fallin’” chant. As usual, Seventeen elevate the track’s appeal, even during its meandering moments. I still think they’re at their best when matched with funk-pop dynamism, but Fallin’ Flower is well within their emotive wheelhouse.
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